BluRay/DVD Reviews

By • Nov 29th, 2005 •

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(WB) 2005. 80 mins. Widescreen.

Of the many and well-deserved awards that MARCH OF THE PENGUINS is garnering this season, the one dealt out by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures on Tuesday, January 10th for Best Documentary, will certainly remain distinguished by its introduction from event host Paul Reiser, who explained that “People don’t realize, but it’s really a Jewish movie. The penguins are really the old Jews of Atlantic City, walking to the beach, eating some whitefish, and then slowly going back to the hotel…” Needless to say, this analogy brought the house down, and left director Jacquet – who’d risked his life in sub-zero temperatures for years to document these creatures – with very little to add. It was a riot, and Reiser was flying high; that fanciful image was just one of his choice verbal pirouettes at the podium, which will receive more coverage in my upcoming article on the evening.

MARCH OF THE PENGUINS has been a huge success (made for a reported eight million, and earning, in the USA alone, ten times that figure), treading as it does once-familiar Disney territory without heaping on the anthropomorphic sentiment that so many have resented in the Disney True Life docs. I don’t like penguins, yet I was absolutely fascinated by Jacquet’s comprehensive exploration of the isolated birds’ harsh ritual of survival. I don’t find them cuddly, and Victoria Alexander (FIR film critic), who’s actually been there observing them, claims that the stench is unbearable. Nonetheless, as pictured here, beautifully and in every imaginable spatial design, they are objects of supreme contemplation; tall and stoic, ascetic, remote, like something we might find on Neptune or Uranus. It’s a film about survival, and adaptation, and how other life forms manage to do it. The mind wanders, under the onslaught of the imagery, and considers just what’s up with life in this incomprehensible universe.

Interesting to note: the film won ‘Best Documentary Screenplay’ from the Writers Guild of America: Narration written by Jordan Roberts; Screenplay by Luc Jacquet and Michel Fessler; story by Luc Jacquet. Yes, documentaries have screenplays, too. It’s just the order that’s reversed. You have to see what you’ve got before you can write the script, whereas with non-doc features, you write the script, then assemble what’s on the page for shooting.

Special features include docs and a Looney Tune: 8 BALL BUNNY.

Directed by Luc Jacquet.
Cinematography by Laurent Chalet and Jerome Maison.
Music by Alex Wurman.
Edited by Sabine Emiliani.
Narrated by Morga Freeman.

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